On April 23, Kimberly Lent, FCAN’s Assistant Director for Research and Analytics, hosted a webinar highlighting the role that career fairs can play in helping K-12 students envision their future professional paths and learning about the appropriate postsecondary education they need to achieve their goals. Kimberly was joined by guest presenter Anna Ryan, Director of Programs at Junior Achievement of Tampa Bay. The nationwide Junior Achievement USA has developed a new Career Fair curriculum for high school, middle school, and elementary students.

Get to Know: Junior Achievement USA

Junior Achievement USA (JA USA), which is commemorating its centennial this year, is the largest organization dedicated to giving young people the knowledge and skills they need to own their economic success, plan for their futures, and make smart academic and economic choices.

Anna noted that the organization has long been involved with career readiness through job shadow events and in-class programs. A greater demand for support of Career Fair events — which expose students to a greater variety of professional vocations — resulted in JA USA developing a flexible curriculum for the areas they serve. The Career Fair curriculum is designed to encourage students to engage and participate in a way that facilitates some meaningful interaction that will be helpful to them.

How Career Fairs Can Help Students

About one-third of students change their major in college, according to a report from the National Center for Education Statistics. Additionally, a research collaboration between Gallup and Strata Education Network found that 51% of Americans who pursued postsecondary education said they would change their major, institution or degree if they had to do it over again.

Fortunately, many communities now recognize the value of helping students envision their future career in order to ensure their postsecondary education plans support their goals. Career Fairs have proliferated to expose students to careers they may not have otherwise become familiar with.

Successful Strategies from Junior Achievement

Students are often ill-equipped to make the most of their time spent at Career Fairs.

Junior Achievement’s Career Fair curriculum provides strategies that colleges, school districts, and community organizations can adapt to serve their students.  Those strategies include pre-Career Fair activities (including a self-knowledge assessment of students’ abilities, interests, work preferences and values), tools to utilize during the event (suggested questions to ask guest speakers; practice shaking hands, making eye contact, and dressing to make a favorable impression) and after the fair suggestions (guidance on following up with the key contacts they made after the event; crafting a career plan and leveraging online resources).

Students can’t be what they can’t see, but a Career Fair is often not enough to help students make the connection to a bright future that aligns with their interests and talents. Helping students prepare to make a great impression, evaluate career options, and reflect on their experience will help them make the most of the opportunity.

Show Notes

To learn more about Junior Achievement — or to view the webinar and download the presentation — take advantage of these resources.

Junior Achievement Career Exploration Fair – Student Guide

Be sure to visit our Past Webinars page for access to recordings and downloadable material from FCAN’s previous presentations.

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